Thursday, January 31, 2013

Photo Number 1124

Blog reader Jim asked for some help with this photo.

From Jim

This is a photo of his Great Great Grandfather William, he was a grocers assistant in England and then later a miner.  He was born in 1839 and died in 1881 at the age of 42.  He came to the United States from England.

When do you think this portrait was made?  Was it made from a some kind of process?  Is it part photo and part drawing?

How old do you this this gentleman was ?

Any input is appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by.  Do come again:)


  1. This is a photograph of a drawing, which has a name that has escaped me. Without seeing the original drawing, it's hard to say if it was done with graphite pencils, charcoal or something similar. Such drawings were not uncommon before the advent of photography and for many decades after, too. Professional artists [usually young ones] of such drawings rarely had a studio but more commonly traveled about offering their services for nominal fees or in trade for a meal, a night's lodging, etc. How old is the subject – who obviously is a relatively youthful adult male but who is known to have died at 42 in 1881? A wild guess is that he probably was in his 20s or 30s, meaning the drawing was probably done in the 1860s or 1870s. Any attempt to be more specific as to the subject's age or date of the drawing would be subjective guesswork. And, of course, without any other images of the subject with which to compare, there's no telling how accurately the artist depicted the subject.

  2. I'd guess that it is rather a photograph, possibly a copy of one, that was subsequently heavily retouched by hand. However, it would help considerably if the entire object, including mount, could be scanned. Without that, it's hard to estimate a date.

  3. Mrs. John A. AndersonFebruary 1, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    I was an archivist for many years during which time I cataloged several items just like this one. The original image of this item was a drawing, probably done in charcoal. Many similar 1800's examples of such portraiture are available for viewing on the Internet. I know that for certain, because I just sought and found.

  4. Thanks, everyone!

    I have a similar portrait of my great grandparents -- the son and daughter-in-law of the man in the original photo here. It looks like a photo, but upon closer examination, it appears to be a sketch. And it doesn't actually look like these two people were even sitting together...

    I also have a little photo -- an old postcard from 1910 -- of my grandmother and her sister as toddlers. There's another copy in my aunt's house that's about three feet tall and two feet wide, and colorized. What I wonder now is, was this how 'enlargements' were done? Not so much in the case of this original posted photograph, but I wonder if the original negative was projected onto a larger canvas and sketched over. The larger portrait of my grandma-toddler is a bit fuzzier and far less clear.

    Thanks for your thoughts!!

    Jim K

  5. Interesting to read all the comments here.


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